Oxytocin [aak·see·tow·sn] is a nifty hormone. Released by the pituitary gland into the bloodstream, it facilitates childbirth by stimulating the uterus to contract.
Some call it the love hormone for its ability to enhance emotional bonds. For example, it helps forge the connection between mother and child. And our body produces oxytocin when we fall in love or become sexually aroused.
The hormone packs a punch. Might it serve as a prescription for a troubled relationship?
The thought that oxytocin supplements might serve as the natural love fix appears to have gained credence in recent years. But researchers in the United Kingdom think that idea is a sinking ship in the sea of love.
They decided to test oxytocin’s ability to help men raise their level of emotional perceptiveness, a helpful skill in patching things up with a partner.
Their study involved 104 healthy young men who were either given intranasal oxytocin or a placebo, or who took part in an accredited emotional training program. The young men were then shown photos of faces depicting different emotions.
Those who underwent the training were able to more accurately pick out sad or happy faces, indicating greater emotional awareness. But oxytocin proved ineffective in the test, which researchers believe points to therapy as a far better option for passion lost.
The researchers acknowledge more research is needed, including a study involving women. But they also note a potentially fatal flaw in the theory that oxytocin could remedy a love life gone awry. Its effects, even if they can save a romance, dissipate after several hours.
Oxytocin, unfortunately, is no love potion number nine.